Wednesday, March 5, 2014
Making The Enterprise Cloud Real: Unitas Global's Cloud Vision
Story by Benjamin F. Kuo
For all of the consumer adoption of the cloud, enterprise users are still not as bought into the vision of cloud computing as one might think they would be. So, how do you help ease enterprise customers into the cloud--or at least, help them use cloud technology to help them with their business goals? Los Angeles-based Unitas Global (www.unitasglobal.com) recently raised a round of funding from MK Capital and Azure Capital for its vision of helping enterprises make that transition to cloud technology. We caught up with founder and CEO Grant Kirkwood--a serial entrepreneur and veteran of providing infrastructure to the enterprise markets--on the vision behind the company.
Explain to us what Unitas Global does?
Grant Kirkwood: What we're trying to do, is bring cloud computing into the enterprise. The large, traditional brick and mortar enterprises are on the cusp of adopting cloud. But, the way we do it is different. We're trying to take the majority segment approach, which means we're trying to make cloud computing a lot less cloudy, and a lot more tangible. Most of the CIOs we are talking to are at large banks and healthcare providers. They want the benefits of cloud computing, but they're afraid because of security or reliability concerns. What we do, is we build them private, cloud infrastructure, and make it available in an easy to consume web portal. It's all custom, technology agnostic, and very flexible. We're giving them all of the cloud orchestration, lifecycle management, maintenance, application performance monitoring, and all kinds of other stuff in once place, so that it's easy for them to use.
You have a track record in infrastructure--can you talk about that, and why you decided to tackle the cloud?
Grant Kirkwood: I've been in infrastructure for a long time. My last company was a global communications company with network points of presence around the world. One of the things I discovered, was that telecom was becoming an increasingly small piece of the puzzle. Companies were saying--we want to outsource these kinds of things, because they're not our core competency. This was about the same time that the cloud began coming on the scene, and we thought--how about if we combine those two things? We can handle both network and infrastructure, to how applications work, and let companies instead focus on what they're good at. We can deal with the infrastructure pieces, which is what I've done for most of my life. Most companies don't do infrastructure very well, really. They just do it to support their business apps, but it's just not their core business. Most of our clients are Fortune 500 companies, from mid to large enterprises. One of our clients, a healthcare provider, had built their first data center on their own, and they were very proud of it. However, when they went to build out a second, disaster recovery site, they figure out that they had been there and done that, and didn't want to build another one--they decided to outsource it. That's the kind of decisions we are seeing every day.
There are lots of folks thinking about this market. How do you differentiate yourself in this market and avoid being a commodity provider?
Grant Kirkwood: There are some technology pieces which make this really unique. But, ultimately, we don't view ourselves as a technology company first and foremost--we're really a solution provider. The solution we provide is we solve major business problems. We take the approach which might look like a system integrator in the beginning, and we transition to a service provider once we've defined the solution. The approach we take with clients, and which sets us apart from the industry, is both on the technology as well as philosophical level. What we're trying to do is take private, in-house infrastructure, which is very difficult to provision and consume, and make that private infrastructure, which is as easy to use as it is to buy books online. We've done a lot of development on the front end, to make it super easy for consumers of those resources to use them.
Does what you do compete with the public cloud providers like Amazon?
Grant Kirkwood: No, not at all. It's kind of interesting. The reason we went out to raise money, is even though we were profitable and growing just fine, is we wanted to secure our name in the private cloud. We want to be synonymous with private cloud, as Amazon is with the public cloud. The sale approach is actually very different in those markets. Amazon has taken a very technology driven approach to the cloud, which is great for early adopters and visionaries. However, in the majority market, with guys who are just starting to dip their toes into the water, they're buying for very different reasons. They're doing it because it's a safe bet. We're really focused on speaking to that target audience, which is a fundamentally different kind of customer than Amazon serves. Our cloud solution even integrates with Amazon, if our customers want the capacity to divert things to the public cloud. We view them as complimentary.
As a profitable and growing business, why go for funding?
Grant Kirkwood: Our model, from the financial perspective, is very simple. Each client ends up looking like their own P&L. Each deal is cash flow positive, from day one. Because of that model, we were profitable. We recently entered into a partnership with Equinix to power their private cloud data center efforts, and we also have a partnership with CDW to be the private cloud solution partner for their clients, 250,000 mostly medium sized enterprise clients. However, because of those partnerships, we found ourselves with a lot more inbound opportunities than we could handle. We had to makke the hard decision--do we turn business away, or do we build out a really large sales force? We decided to do the second part, and ultimately have been deploying a sales team in offices around the world, and really ramping up on that side. That's ultimately why we raised money, to give us the high ground in enterprise cloud space, which is abig undertaking in a market this big.
Thanks, and good luck!